By Steve Hubrecht
During its most recent council meeting, Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality formally adopted the five-year financial plan bylaw that attracted a slew of commentary when it was first made public more than a month ago.
The Monday, May 12th meeting also featured for the first time this year a public delegation comprised of long-standing Jumbo municipality and Jumbo Glacier Resort critic Jim Galloway.
Mr. Galloway said he was speaking on behalf of the thousands of people in the Kootenay region and beyond who are opposed to creating a ski resort in the Jumbo area, and he blasted the financial plan, which shows $200,000 a year in government transfers the bulk of it from the provincial Small Communities Grant.
We find it unsupportable and undemocratic that an unelected council of this fake municipality is attempting to finance its existence for the next five years with a million dollars from the provincial taxpayers, most of whom are strongly opposed to any commercial development in Jumbo. Such funding is regarded as unfair and improper, said Mr. Galloway. We have maintained for many years that the proposed Jumbo development is a land grab of public land at taxpayer expense. What you (the municipality), the province and the development promoters are attempting to do (with the five-year financial plan) proves that our perception is correct.
Mr. Galloway strongly urged council to abandon its financial plan and instead seek its necessary revenue from resort proponent Glacier Resorts Ltd.
Council members, in their discussion of the bylaw, addressed several of Mr. Galloways points.
The position of the municipality is not one of partnership with the proponent, said Jumbo councillor Nancy Hugunin. It doesnt seem right that we would be asking the developer to bring that money to the table. Our partnership is with the (provincial) government.
Our mandate is to operate (as a municipality) for the benefit of future residents. It seems to me that adopting this bylaw is in the best interest of those residents. Thats why were here, said Jumbo councillor Steve Ostrander. We dont have a lot of option without a tax base to draw revenue from. Its (adopting the bylaw) the responsible thing to do.
Jumbo municipality is an unusual situation of encountering stiff opposition in its attempts to develop a tax base while at the same time facing strong opposition, often from the same people, in seeking alternative funding, said Jumbo Mayor Greg Deck.
Certainly there is nothing fake about this municipality as far as the province is concerned. It is constituted, said Mayor Deck.
The two councillors and mayor gave third reading to the financial plan bylaw and then formally adopted it.
Some discussion also arose around more than 1,200 letters submitted through local East Kootenay environmental group Wildsight to the resort municipality commenting on the financial plan.
The letters were not included in the information package for the April 15th Jumbo council meeting because they had missed the submission deadline, according to acting Jumbo chief administrative officer Mark Read.
It appears they (Wildsight) had a technical glitch on their end in sending them. Wildsight asked if we would still (officially) receive them and we responded that yes, we would, said Mr. Read, adding that about 1,300 letters were received, but many of them were from duplicate senders.
There were multiple replications, with some people submitting as many as ten times, said Mr. Read. When the duplicates were removed, the Wildsight submission resulted in 1,204 letters, with two in favour of the financial plan and the rest opposed. Three hundred and two letters were from the East Kootenay, 349 from the West Kootenay, 474 from elsewhere in British Columbia, 48 from other parts of Canada and a total of 31 from outside the country.
Councillor Hugunin said the number of letters coming from local sources was not really that high, when considered in the context of a province-wide population of 4.6 million. Mr. Galloway responded that 300 letters coming from the East Kootenay is actually a high number, compared with public response to other regional issues.
There are many ways to measure public opinion. Quantity is one way, but often the least effective, said Mayor Deck. I think most people took this as an opportunity to voice their opposition to the municipality existing in the first place. We are not mandated to defend our existence, its just not practical for us. Certainly people can tell us we shouldnt exist as much as they want to, but our mandate here is to look out for the interest of future (Jumbo) residents.
The resort municipality is proceeding in a straightforward, legitimate manner, said Mayor Deck.
We are working within the legislation that is applicable to us. That is the professional thing to do, he said.
The next Jumbo council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 17th.